UK Basketball Notebook

When his team embarked on a summer exhibition trip to Canada four years ago, John Calipari said he didn't care what opponents would be awaiting the Wildcats. It could be the Toronto Raptors or the Tim Horton's late night shift for all he cared, as long as he got some extra practice time.

Now in preparation for his second such tour as the head coach at Kentucky, Calipari says he's approaching it from another perspective.

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"We're doing it a little different than most teams," Calipari said Monday during the SEC men's basketball coaches' summer teleconference. "Most teams don't care what the games are. Matter of fact, we did it four years ago. I didn't care who we played in Canada. It's (about) practicing. But this is going to be different. We're going to be having (international) teams come with us… They'll be hard games for us to win."

The Cats will travel to the Bahamas in August to face national and professional squads from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and France. The tour will give UK a chance to blend a talented roster of returning players with the nation's No. 2 recruiting class for 2014.

"For the first time, I've had players return who had a chance to put their name in the draft, so we're in a unique situation where we have veterans," Calipari said. "Granted, those veterans are sophomores and two of them are juniors… which is kind of unusual for us. I'm excited about it. The returning players and the freshmen are getting along well, so it's all good."

Kentucky has several key players back from last year's NCAA runner-up squad, including junior center Willie Cauley-Stein, junior forward Alex Poythress, sophomore twin guards Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison, sophomore center Dakari Johnson, sophomore center Marcus Lee and sophomore guard Dominique Hawkins.

The Cats will be trying to blend in newcomers like point guard Tyler Ulis, center/forward Karl Towns Jr., shooting guard Devin Booker and power forward Trey Lyles.

Cauley-Stein and Lyles, however, will not be playing on the exhibition tour due to recovering from injury and illness, respectively.

Surprised By One Returnee:

The return of Cauley-Stein to the Wildcats caught Calipari by surprise. The UK boss believed his 7-footer would be a top 15 pick in last week's NBA Draft if he had opted to declare.

Calipari said he doesn't spend much time discussing the stay/go situation with his players. "I literally spend five minutes with them. There are no four-hour brain-washing, all the staff beating them down... five minutes.

"Matter of fact, I thought Willie was leaving. The conversation we had the next morning after the national championship game was congratulating him, 'I'm proud of ya. You were a football player two years ago. No one knew who you were. You weren't a McDonald's All-American. You weren't a Jordan (Brand Classic all-star). You weren't a one-and-done before you got there.' That's not what he was, and he was a top 15 pick."

Cauley-Stein had different plans, though.

"He came in my office the following day and said 'I want to come back,'" Calipari said. "I said, 'What?' (He replied) 'One, I'm having a ball. Two, I'm not ready for that league to do what I want to do. And three, I want to win a (championship) before I leave.' So I said, 'Well, then that's good reasons to come back.'"

Firing A Shot at Critics:

Calipari may have been out of the loop this summer to some extent while rehabilitating from hip-replacement surgery, but at least one nugget got back to him – and apparently touched a nerve.

A recent ESPN piece listed Calipari as the 10th-best coach in the nation for developing talent, behind familiar names like Billy Donovan, Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino, despite the fact that the UK coach has seen his players dominate the NBA Draft landscape since he arrived in Lexington in 2009.

"I'd rather them say that, after my entire group gets drafted, ‘Yeah, I'm not sure that he develops players and he can coach' and all that stuff. ‘They're not pros, but they'll get drafted.' It doesn't bother me. Say it, as long as they keep continue to get drafted."

For the record in the ongoing Calipari-Pitino debate, Kentucky had 21 players in the NBA last season compared to three from Louisville.

Cal on Rupp Renovation Debate:

When asked about his opinion of the suspension of a planned $300-million renovation of Rupp Arena, Calipari said had been out of town during most of the discussion and was not well-versed on all the details.

"I just hope that everybody gets together and does what's right for the city and the university," he added.


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